Rest peacefully, Aunt Loretta

Melissa Stagnaro

When I was younger, I was unfazed by late night phone calls. More often then not, they were a sign of the much-too-active social life of my drunk-dialing friends. Now, however, it isn’t often the phone rings after 9. When it does, it is rarely good news.

Which is why, when the phone rang shortly after 9 last night, my nerves were set instantly on edge. It was one of my mom’s sisters, my Aunt Maureen, calling with the latest update on my Aunt Loretta.

We had already been alerted to the fact that Aunt Loretta was in the hospital. She has never been far from our minds these last two months, as she dealt with first a bad infection and then a cancer scare. Last week, she was suffering from what she thought was a stomach bug. But after a few days, her condition continued to worsen rather than improve, precipitating this latest hospital stay.

We all expected that, after a few days of care, she’d be back home with her family. But Aunt Maureen’s call alerted us to the fact that Aunt Loretta’s condition was more dire than we had realized. According to her middle son, my cousin Tom, her doctor said she had only a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

We went to bed feeling helpless. Only to be woken by the phone shortly after midnight. As soon as I saw the name on the caller ID, I knew. I was already crying when I answered.

“Oh, Missy. She’s gone,” my Aunt Maureen said, and the anguish and loss in her voice broke my heart that much more.

Making my way downstairs in the dark, vision blurred by tears, I kept her on the phone. I wanted my mom to hear it from her, rather than me. Not because of an unwillingness on my part to be the bearer of such news, but because I knew they’d both find some small comfort in their sisterly bond.

There was another call, not long after, from my Uncle Joe. One of a flurry of phone calls I knew were being made from Farrell to Farrell up and down the East Coast and across the country. It is times like these when I can truly appreciate having such a large, close-knit extended family, supporting and loving one another.

I swear I could feel every one of them hurting last night, as I struggled to get back to sleep. My dreams were a blurry slide show of memories punctuated by shock and grief.

I woke up long before my alarm, and lay there in the dark, numb and struggling to comprehend the fact that Aunt Loretta was really gone.

I still can’t wrap my head around it. Like all of my mom’s siblings, she has been a fixture of my life. I can’t remember a family gathering she wasn’t a part of, and I can’t imagine what one will be like without her.

I still have that stilted slide show playing through my mind; a maelstrom of memories of her family, the Kuddar’s, visiting our house when I was a kid and countless weddings, parties and other get togethers.

Her sons – my cousins Bob, Tom and Scott – were some of the closest in age to me, and we saw them often in my youth. My father and her husband, Uncle Bob, shared the same birth date, and the two were close up until Bob’s death about 10 years ago.

The Kuddar’s have already been through so much since Uncle Bob’s death, including the sudden and tragic death of Tommy’s wife Michelle a few years ago. My heart goes out to them now, as it does to all the Farrell’s who are grieving the loss of this great lady.

Thank you to those who have offered their condolences to our family. Your thoughtfulness and kindness is very much appreciated. I will pass along your thoughts and prayers with my own.

Sister, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend – Aunt Loretta was a wonderful woman. She will be so greatly missed. Her death has created a void in our family which can never be filled.

I love you, Aunt Loretta. May you rest in peace.

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